By Mike Lanchin and Mona Mahmoud
BBC World Service
Three years after the massive US assault on Falluja, the city's mayor has accused Iraq's central government of starving the city of resources.
Mayor Sa'ad Awad says Shia officials still consider the former insurgent stronghold a haven for Sunni militants.
Support was particularly lacking for the city's 2,000-strong police force, he added, as it takes on a bigger role.
The head of the US military in Falluja said he shared some of the mayor's concerns over scarce police resources.
Colonel Richard Simcock told the BBC there were no immediate plans to withdraw the 5,000 US Marines currently are stationed in the area.
Symbol of the insurgency
Mayor Sa'ad Awad told the BBC: "The evidence points to Falluja being a model for other cities in terms of security and stability, but our capabilities have been weakened by this government that doesn't support us."
Without more resources, he said, the police would be unable to maintain long-term stability once the Americans left.
"We aren't asking for anything extraordinary," he said, "only conventional weapons and vehicles to drive. We don't have anything, unlike the militias in Baghdad who have all the weapons they need to kill people."
Falluja, the second largest city in the mainly Sunni Anbar province, was once a symbol of insurgence resistance to the American invaders.
The US first stormed the city in April 2004 after three American contractors were killed by a mob, and their bodies paraded in the streets.
Later the same year, the US returned in much greater numbers, in a major operation that finally quelled opposition, destroying much of the city in the process.
Thousands of residents fled as the Americans declared that anyone left would be considered an enemy combatant.
I am doing better this year - I used to be frightened of going to school because of the Americans
Secondary school student
Residents of Falluja confirmed to the BBC that security has improved since then.
There have been no major attacks on American forces for months and normality is returning, they said.
Shops are open later, businesses are trading and schools are open.
Many people also said they welcomed seeing Iraqi policemen rather than American troops manning the multiple road blocks and security cordons criss-crossing the city.
Some 5,000 US marines are stationed in the Falluja area, although many US military positions inside the city have been gradually removed.
A 17-year-old secondary school student in Falluja said he was "doing better this year, because I feel safer. I used to be frightened of going to school because of the Americans."
An estate agent confirmed to the BBC that many people who had fled the fighting were now returning to the city, although the slow process of reconstruction meant that many homes were still uninhabitable.
As part of their security plan for Falluja, the Americans divided the city into ten tightly controlled zones, each walled off by concrete and steel.
Biometric badges were brought in for all residents to be able to come in and out of the city.
For his part, the mayor imposed a city-wide ban on cars, which, some said, has helped halt car bombs.
However, many residents complain that the security measures are making daily life difficult, and according to one tribal leader from the Sinaa district of the city, they are also hampering the city's recovery.
Once a thriving area of small industry and workshops, now no-one now has work in Sinaa, he told the BBC.
"Sinaa is dead," he said.
'The fight continues'
According to Mr Awad, insurgent fighters in the city are now "under the control of the law".
He said there is "no resistance in Falluja".
But one man who identified himself as a member of one of the many groups that fought the Americans, said there was a sort of truce in place.
He said: "If the occupier doesn't respond to our demands, then the fight continues."
Colonel Richard Simcock, the ground commander of US forces in and around Falluja, told the BBC that while he agreed with the mayor regarding the lack of police resources, he said the city was more stable than ever before.
He said there were no plans for the Americans to withdraw from an area that had been so hard to control. "We will be here until the mission is accomplished," he said.
"The enemy hasn't given up, they are still trying, but they are failing."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/12/20 03:31:45 GMT
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